Thursday, December 16, 2010

An empty food bank and incredible people

Its 3:43 PM on Monday, December 13th, and as I'm wrapping up my work day I see a note pop up on Facebook from local social media guru Dave Teixeira. Dave is posting an email he received from Heather at SHARE society about the dimished supply of food for the Christmas hampers in the SHARE warehouse. I have been in fairly regular contact with Martin at SHARE over the past few weeks, so I'm aware of the shortage, but frankly, unaware that it has escaled to the level that it has - the food bank is expecting to service a need for over 1600 Tri City residents this year @ Christmas, and their current inventory is depleted to the 'sub 500' level.
It's a crisis in waiting. I have always supported SHARE and value so much the work that they do in the community, and this news is horrible news to receive getting so close to Christmas.
What to do ? Immediately, I update my web site to include the information from SHARE. On Sunday I had posted a facebook event for the CPR Holiday train, which benefits SHARE, so I check out the status of the 'event' and I see only 3 people 'attending' . Obviously this isn't going to be much of a 'conduit' for passing on the information. I contact Martin at SHARE to get the info on what is needed and the details on the scope of the situation - unfortunately, no good news there. I tell Martin that I will be sure to include an appeal on SHARE's behalf at our council meeting the following night.
8:04 PM - Dave updates his facebook page with a link to an article by Chris Parry at the Vancouver Sun. Dave has contacted Chris and forwarded him the information and used his 'influence' , and I imagine friendship, with Chris to get this story published within 5 hours of hearing from Heather. CKNW is carrying the story on the radio. Dave has used his flair for social media to elevate this situation from a 'local' tri cities basis to literally MILLIONS of people through the lower mainland.
6:00 AM Tuesday - I roll out of bed , put on CKNW as I do every morning and the SHARE story is top of the news. CBC is carrying the story, as is GLOBAL TV. Heather is on the 6:00 AM news, live feed from the empty food bank warehouse in Port Moody. Dave's talent and connections have elevated this story now to the number one story in the Metro Vancouver news - in about 12 hours - at a time when BC Politics has been dominating the headlines. REMARKABLE. The story is being repeated , by all the media, seemingly every 5 minutes !!
10:22 AM Tuesday - Dave posts on Facebook that he has Canucks/Columbus tickets for Wednesday night available if anyone wants them. OK, seems unremarkable, and unrelated ? NOT AT ALL - Dave is giving up his Canucks tickets (which, if you know Dave, he would likely have used to woo an undetermined 'blonde' to accompany him) because on Wednesday he has committed to work with Heather and the crew at SHARE on the Christmas hampers.
A quick scan of Facebook status updates shows Dave's 'network' of friends are all reposting his post about the urgent need at SHARE.
4:51 PM - Dave updates his facebook page and blog with more on the story, including the tv coverage , and announcing that CKNW has mobilized , in what has to be the quickest response ever, to support a food drive event at Save On Foods in Coquitlam on Wednesday afternoon.
9:00 PM - As i sit at our regular council meeting, I dedicate my council report to the SHARE food bank crisis and implore those that can to support SHARE in any way they can at this crucial time. Also mentioning the CPR Holiday train on Friday as not only a great time but another opportunity to support SHARE. Sadly, we have only a handful of people at our council meeting, but we do have the local press and SHAW TV coverage, so , maybe some people will hear this.. but i doubt it will be very many.
11:00 PM - Watching the GLOBAL news final and the SHARE story continues to get top coverage. I send a message off to Dave... in a nutshell "Dave, you are a media god"
6:00 AM Wednesday - wake up, put on CKNW , again, SHARE food bank crisis leading the way, now with the added appeal of asking for residents to do what they can and to stop by the SAVE ON FOODS on Pinetree between 3 and 7PM to make a donation. Gord MacDonald will be broadcasting on location.
Throughout the day the story continues to dominate the news - the local media, and the media personalities are embracing the drive. How quickly has this story gone from a bad news to a good news story :)
3:44 PM - I stop at home to 'water my dog' before heading off to SAVE ON, and Dave has posted on his facebook page "Holy Crap! The food and money is already rolling in here for the Tri Cities Food Bank !" As I head over to SAVE ON , I hear Gord, Dave, Heather, Mark Madryga, Steve Darling on the radio from the site - great to see the celebrities lending their 'star power' to this event. I'm not sure if they know how much that is worth, but I sure do !
4:20 PM - arriving at Save On - CKNW truck is parked out front, groceries are piled up everywhere, volunteers are doing an incredible job. Gord MacDonald continues with the updates and interviews on the radio. John Wolff , SHARE society board chair is here, Heather Scott, Director of Development and so well known as the 'public' face of SHARE is here, Martin Wyant , Executive Directory of SHARE is here (more on that later !). So many staff and volunteers from SHARE that I don't know their names are here. Chris Wilson is here working tirelessly boxing up the donations.
Sometime after 5, the SHARE truck pulls up to collect the 'first run' of donations to shuttle back into Port Moody. I join the volunteers, including Steve Darling , Mark Madryga, John Wolff, Heather, Martin, Chris, the CKNW production staff, everyone pitching in to box up and load the donations into the truck.
OH - did I mention - in the middle of it all, in his never ending positive, energetic way - Dave Teixeira - chatting up the people making donations, helping out the volunteers, doing radio interviews, and co-ordinating with his ECCW team for the 'hamper assembly line' taking place later in the evening. Less than 100 metres from a KFC, but Dave is focused on the task at hand :)
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and City Councillor Selina Robinson arrive - Richard, as always, with his camera, his smile and his energy ! Thank god he has his camera, and I get him to snap a shot of me and Mark Madryga - Mark is my favorite local media personality and I'm so glad to have gotten the picture. The truck, fully loaded heads off to Port Moody to unload and then return.
Selina has brought with her a donation she has collected from the firehall and the two of us head into the store to 'go shopping'. Cool - Selina was with SHARE for many years and she knows how this works - this will be fun ! Strikes me while we are in the store, that canned food is really expensive ! When did this happen ? I have to say, having run a warehouse for many years that moved alot of canned food, I have a bit of a stigma for it - and fortunately, living in BC and being fortunate to maintain a steady income, i enjoy fresh meat products and vegetables. $ 3.50 for a small can of chicken/tuna/salmon. $ 4.50 for a small can of corned beef. HOLY COW ! We find the 'warehouse pack' row and load up our cart - able to get the discounts of the warehouse packs many of the items come down to the $ 1 / can range - trying to guestimate if we are around the amount of the fire fighters donation... we go through the till and we were $ 1.87 over !! Selina pays the difference and I keep her quarter from the shopping cart (but dont tell her !) We wheel the cart out towards the exit - when i had originaly arrived I did not come in the store and was working outside helping box and load the goods into the truck so I had no idea what was going on in the store. We are having trouble getting through all the 'random carts' lined up along the inside front of the store, but I'm not paying a great deal of attention as we are talking to Heather and Richard and the fairly steady stream of people going by saying 'Hi Mike ! Good job ! ' (simultaeously makes you feel amazing and embarrassed, as I'm certainly not responsible for any of this but glad I could help out).
As I look for somewhere to 'park the cart' I realize that all of these carts - probably 40-50 carts OVERFLOWING with groceries, as well as about 8-10 dollies (the freight/pallet kind of dollies) lined up here are ALL donations for the foodbank. Chris Wilson is working on cashier number 8 (I dont actually know what number) , boxing and boxing and boxing the donations. Cases of beans, chilli, canned meats and meals - so much stuff, I wonder if Save On will have any food left for their 'regular' customers !
Back outside, so many cars driving through the parking lot stop, roll down their windows and hand us a wad of bills - $ 10, $ 20 , $ 50 . People open their hearts and their wallets - its just so great to see. A young girl jumps out of a car and drops two jars of coins - pennies, dimes, quarters - jumps back in the car and is gone. A young fellow gets out his dad's van, runs over and gives $ 40 - his dad yells from the van ' Merry Christmas Everyone , and thank you for all that you are doing '
6:00 PM - The second truck is arriving and the volunteers are concerned that they don't have alot to load into it yet. I'm the bearer of good news - like me, they had NO IDEA of all the groceries lined up inside, I point them in the direction and there is an instant elevation of excitement. I help Selina load up some water in her car for the 'work party' later at the warehouse, and I have to leave - heading off to dinner with the Transportation Committee, another great group of people volunteering their time to help out in their community. I make my personal 'year end' cash donation to SHARE and I head off. Smiling... and humming a christmas tune.
Tuesday was council day, and not a particularly good council day. In fact , a day where some of the WORST of what's wrong with politics was going on around me and I left Tuesday night wondering why I do this.
Wednesday was, quite honestly, one of the best days I've had since joining city council in 2005 - so many examples of what is right with the world and good about the people I serve in Port Moody and our neighbouring communities.
Mark Madryga - from White Rock - out in the tri cities supporting the food bank, and Steve Darling - local celebrity, supporting the food bank. Both loading boxes, bags, etc, and bringing out their 'star power'.
Gord MacDonald - hitting the listeners hard every couple minutes to come out and support the foodbank
Richard Stewart and Selina Robinson - two good hearted people that always seem to do the right thing
Heather Scott, John Wolff and the team from SHARE - these people do this 365 days a year ! Holy cow - thank you isnt anywhere near enough !
CKNW production staff - out there loading up boxes and keeping the positive energy
Save On Foods - are you kidding, wow - the support was unbelievable
Coast Capital and the other corporate donators - I dont have a list, but great support from the businesses in our community.
All of the residents of the Tri Cities - I live in the best city in the world, and the 2nd and 3rd best are our neighbours ! (Sorry, no , its not a tie, but its close !!) So many smiling faces , and so great to see so many people that I knew, and some that I didn't but that knew me !! Thank you , thank you , thank you everyone !!
And, now, as promised above - Martin Wyant - Executive Director of SHARE. Martin is a recent transplant to our region and really is still getting his feet wet, with the monumental task of filling the shoes of Joanne Granek, which is impossible - but.. .Martin was out early in the day doing media and fund raising for the society and was wearing a suit and tie. He was running late and so rather than going back home to change and coming back to Save On, he went next door to Marks Work Warehouse , and bought a shirt and a pair of jeans and headed over to help load up boxes and trucks. Apparantly the selection wasn't 'all that' but great story, and great committment ! Welcome to the Tri Cities Martin !
Saving the best for last - Dave Teixeira, what a superstar ! . ECCW wrestling. UFC promoter. Social Media GURU !!
Started Wrestling with Hunger in ECCW a couple of years ago, brings the ECCW crew out to assemble the hampers !
Dave is a miracle - he has the biggest heart, the most positive attitude and honestly , is just the nicest guy. Positively SELFLESS and gives so much back !
Hard to believe he ran for PoCo city council and didn't get elected ?! Oh well, a net benefit for the rest of us I guess as that likely would have consumed much of his valuable time.
CPR Holiday Train - Friday December 17 - 9:00 PM arrival at Port Moody (Queens Street at Clarke) - Bring a donation for SHARE !

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coquitlam Homeless Shelter Public Hearing

The public hearing wrapped up a little after midnight, and around 1230 AM this morning, Coquitlam council gave 2nd, 3rd and 4th readings to OCP and Zoning amendments in support of the proposed homeless shelter at 3030 Gordon Ave.
The public hearing was very emotional, many local residents came forward with their concerns for increased crime and activity in their otherwise quiet residential neighbourhood. Others expressed their concern for the well-being of those less fortunate in our community and their feeling of obligation to help those who are down on their luck. Of course, both sides in this discussion (debate ? argument ?) have merit, but at the end of the day, Coquitlam, I believe , made the right choice. It's so unfortunate that these conversations can get so ugly at times, but, strong emotions generally lead to heated debate !
The Gordon Ave location (behind the Superstore complex off Westwood and Lougheed) is an area where several homeless people currently congregate, and is in close proximity to services including health care, transit, police services, etc. I have confidence that the city staff in Coquitlam with guidance and support of council, will ensure that no resident feels unsafe in their own home and will work to alleviate the concerns of residents.
A question was asked last night, generally, 'What about Port Moody and Port Coquitlam ?' and specifically someone asked me 'What is Port Moody doing to contribute ?'
Its important to remember - Health Care , and Homelessness, are NOT the mandate of municipal government, but of the province. The City of Coquitlam made it very clear - they are not BUILDING or OPERATING this shelter, but made the same commitment that all three of the tri-cities made to this process : To provide zoning and relief of taxes, fees, and charges for a provincial facility if appropriate land could be found for the shelter. Port Moody also made this commitment, as did Port Coquitlam - however, Coquitlam identified this location and started conversations with the ministry / BC housing, and this project has moved forward over the past couple of years, in relative isolation, and not with any consultation from Port Moody (other than our continued involvement with the Homelessness task force). To the best of my knowledge, Coquitlam has never asked for any assistance from Port Moody, other than their required notification of the OCP amendment which we, and PoCo , agreed with.
Port Moody council has made it very clear via our strategic plan that we will vigorously resist downloading from senior governments.
Zoning and land use are the domain of municipal government - health care, addiction treatment, affordable housing are NOT, and, wading into those areas when municipal budgets are not even sustainable with the responsibilities we already have, would be irresponsible management of municipal tax dollars.
SO - congratulations to Coquitlam council and staff for identifying the property and for taking the steps necessary for the provincial ministry to step up to its obligation, and enduring a divisive and combative process and ensuring , as I know they will, that all residents opinions and concerns are respected moving forward. And kudos to all members of council for respectfully listening to the community and keeping the democratic process working, even if it meant working until 1am !

Friday, October 29, 2010

Metro Vancouver Budget

As the alternate representative for Port Moody on the Metro Vancouver Board, I attended the Oct 29 meeting of the board at which the 2011 budget was on the agenda. We had previously had a budget 'workshop' meeting on Wednesday (27th) to go over the budget revisions for 2011.
In a nutshell:
Metro Vancouver 2011 Budget, expeditures: $ 603.4 million , + 5.8% (across all functions)
Impact on 'average' household - $ 513 / hh / year , up $ 44 / hh or + 9.4%
Now, the Metro Vancouver budget is a VERY complicated budget, as any $ 600 million dollar budget is likely to be, but, the budget is actually quite transparant, and 'honest'. Particularly, they disburse 'common costs' and admin costs across the various functions (water, sewage, garbage, parks, etc), and the budget is very well analyzed.
Unfortunately, maybe due to the transparancy, there are also things that just LEAP off the page and set off the alarm bells. In particular, those items for me are:
- Solid waste (garbage) tipping fee - increasing from $ 82 to $ 97 per ton - or + 18%, due primarily to a decrease in garbage vs. fixed costs on operating the system. So if we continue to reduce our garbage our 'rate' will just keep going up ? We have seen this before in the 'metered water' discussions, where so much of the cost has NOTHING to do with volume that decreaasing consumption does not achieve efficiencies. YIKES, we need to reduce our garbage for so many reasons, if nothing else, maybe increased fees provide increase motivation to REDUCE !
- Corporate communications - + 19.64 %. Metro Vancouver has a huge budget for communications allowing them to produce the sustainable region tv series and many 'glossy' media releases, etc. Nice... but necessary ? These are tough times ! If nothing else we need to make sure these resources are not duplicates of what is already going on municipally and make sure we are getting full value for these costs.
- Media Relations - + 10.66%. In my opinion, part of the 'media relations' puzzle is that Metro Vancouver is being portrayed as a 'regional government', which it is NOT. It is an association of municipal governments, but, with items like this, seems to be somewhere convenient to hide some expenses from the taxpayers !
- Boards and Committees - + 44% since 2009. This is the one that bugs me the most - this is the salaries and indemnities for mayors and councillors to gather in Burnaby to discuss regional issues - in fact, to FEED THE BEAST that is Metro Vancouver, and where I'm concerned, to hide costs and spending from taxpayers. If we are electing representatives to our municpal councils, and it is in the interest of the municipality to participate in regional planning and operations, then this should be clearly and truthfully identified for the municpal taxpayers to adjudicate .. not buried in their water bills !
So yes, as you might imagine, I am not pleased with the MV budget, so , I had some amendments I was going to propose to the plan - particulary including reducing the expenditrues on those items noted above. After making my first amendment, it became clear that the board wasn't interested in revisiting the 9.4% increase to the taxpayers and I heard several times comments like ' this late hour', '.. insignificant in the context of the overall budget', and '... it is what it is.' Yes, I find this offensive - its NEVER too late to evaluate the amount of money you are taking from taxpayers pockets, its NEVER insignificant if we can save $ 1 and, frankly, I dont even know what 'it is what it is' means, although I believe Todd Bertuzzi used the quote at some point ??
Metro Vancouver collects the vast majority of its revenue through municipal utility charges , and we all know that muncipal utility charges have increased in the double digit percentage wise for several years running. We are told that this is necessary for our waste, water and sewage systems - and yet, in the Metro Vancouver budget we have millions going to pay municpal politicians meetings, for advertising and PR, and $ 300, 000 for board international travel.
These things might have some merit if money isn't an object, but it's irresponsible spending of taxpayer money, and I voted against the budget for this reason. My preference would have been to amend the budget to remove / reduce some of these items, but as the board had no desire and defeated the two amendments proposed (one by myself and one by Vancovuer Mayor Robertson), they proceeded to approve the budget as written.
Next time a municipal politician says to you 'Its not us, its Metro Vancouver' , ask them to explain that and whether they supported the near 10% increase !

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Translink, Oct 7,2010 Consultation on Funding

Well, if you've been living in a cave, or somewhere outside of the lower mainland, you may not be aware that Translink is having some financial challenges, and in particular, struggling to come up with the $ 400 million for their commitment to the Evergreen Line. Today, Translink hosted a meeting at Metrotown to discuss their funding outlook. The event was VERY well attended by municipal politicians from throughout the region, including Mayor Trasolini and myself from Port Moody, and media.

While the meeting was significant on the issue of funding, there was a VERY IMPORTANT side issue arising at this meeting, for residents of the north east sector.

First, on the funding issue:

Translink CEO Ian Jarvis walked through the proposed funding model for generating the revenues required for the Evergreen Line, and other regional projects. The model is split into two parts, or priorities: Part one being the Evergreen Line (400 million) and the North Fraser Perimeter Road (53 million). These projects are identified as the highest priority because of both importance to the region and leveraging senior government funding. Part two identifies 13 other priority projects for Translink - Main St Station Upgrades, King George Blvd B Line, Metrotown station upgrades, Bus Service Hour Extensions, Bike Capital Funding, Surrey Central Station Upgrades, Highway 1 Rapid Bus Project, MRN Minor Capital Funding, New West Station Upgrades, Bus Service Hour expansion (growth), Bus Service Hours and Infrastructure on U Pass routes, White Rock to Langley Bus Service and Lonsdale Quay Upgrades.

WAIT, you say... 15 projects and the Murray Clarke Connector is not even included on the list ? How can it be that a project that was a priority of the province in 1983 , remains un completed in 2010 and isn't even mentioned as being a priority in the region ??

WELL - interestingly enough, we didn't have to wait long for the answer. Mr Jarvis explained that the Murray Clarke Connector didn't meet the priority threshold, as it had no 'historical' significance and did not have any associated senior partner funding. While he is correct on the lack of senior govt partner funding, I wondered how this project could not have historical significance as a priority ?

WELL - interestingly again, we didn't need to wait long for that answer either. Mr Jarvis noted that the Murray Clarke connector was only needed when the Evergreen Line was an at grade light rail system running along St John's street - and now that it had been changed to skytrain, there was no longer any urgency for the Murray Clarke connector project.

OK, yup , hang on... is that my head exploding ? Did I really just hear someone say the Murray Clarke, a regional priority since 1983 (which of course is two years prior to ANY skytrain line ever being built in the region), was only a necessity if the Evergreen Line was light rail through Port Moody. Oh jeez.. here we go again.... you can refer to my blog post about our meeting with the Minister of Transportation at the UBCM if you don't already understand the frustration around this project !

So, with mind numbing down a little, the presentation into FUNDING for the priorities now proceeds. Translink has determined that the funding required for the Evergreen Line and NFPR projects requires $ 39 million per year, and if the additional 13 projects are also to be funded, they would require an additional $ 29 million per year - total of $ 68 million per year for all of the projects. Somehow, it doesn't sound like so much money when compared to other dollar figures we hear tossed around these days with multi-billion dollar mega projects like the Gateway project, Port Mann or Golden Ears Bridges.

Translink says they have options for funding that consist of.... well... property tax ! Under the legislation of the South Coast BC Transporation Act, they are currently maximized on Fuel Tax, Parking Tax, Hydro Levy and Replacement tax. The other options are Vehicle Levy, Benefiting tax area, Transit fares and property tax.

Apparently, there is no mechanism for collecting a vehicle levy and translink has not had time to figure out how to implement this. (I would think they could have by now, was first proposed , what, 10 years ago ??) Benefiting tax area is a VERY complicated issue whereby you would increase property taxes on development that is directly benefiting from transit projects (ie: area around skytrain stations). I would have to agree this one could not be implemented in such a short time frame and it will really require some long term investigation, but it IS a good tool. Transit fares, translink feels they have pushed the riders ability to pay to the limit with significant fare increases over the past few years. Not sure I agree, but I believe they are also dedicating their resources to the fare turnstiles and smart card system and they need to protect this interest for fare increases they know will be coming in the near future.

SO, we are left with property tax as the option. $ 31 / year for the 'average' household for Plan one, and $ 54 / household / year for plans one and two.

I have to say, I'm thinking that seems like pretty good value for money, to get the evergreen line for $ 31 / year in fact seems like a real bargain. Some quick, and very simple math in my head (OK , i used a scratch pad) tells me that the $ 50 million for the MCC , on the same formula, would be $ 3.85 per household. Now WHO would disagree that the MCC is worth $ 3.85 per year ? Boy, if they would just throw that into the plan 1, call it $ 35 / year, they'd have my support in a heartbeat !!

Alas, my train of thought is interrupted by the opening of the microphones to the audience, specifically , the mayors at the front of the queue. Overwhelming clarity of the message: Property Taxes are not the way to fund transit infrastructure !! There is a clear message about property tax being (the one and only) municipal domain, and meddling in property taxes for projects that would ordinarily be funded by provincial or federal governments or other programs, is yet another form of downloading and an erosion of municipal autonomy.

OK, i get that, I guess.. unfortunately, whether you take my money off my property tax bill, my vehicle insurance, toll booths, my cell phone, or whatever other zany idea you come up with, its still money coming from me, the taxpayer. Nothing will ever change that - government programs and projects are funded by the taxpayer, and there's only ONE taxpayer (OK, i mean, there's several million of us, but you get the point !!)

I do understand the frustration of the mayors and i certainly feel there is a united front on this issue -not sure i fully agree, but, certainly this issue will be playing out over the coming weeks and more information will be forthcoming.

The translink report can be viewed online via my website @

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

UBCM Day 2, morning, Tuesday Sep 28, Forums Day

Tuesday at the UBCM and still technically a 'pre conference' day, but an important one.

The day kicked off with the Large Urban Communities Forum - a gathering of local government of cities with a population of > 25,000. (Might not seem large by lower mainland standards, but in BC as a whole, there are MANY MANY cities with less than 25000 population).

Opening the session was a presentation by former Milwaukee mayor, John Norquist. Mr. Norquist is decidedly American in his confidence and his presentation. Clearly a visionary and a man with an opinion ! His presentation concentrated on the failures of urban engineering design with respect to the automobile - how engineering for streets has led to the decay of community, created abandoned and derelict cities and precincts, and demonstrated many examples of the reclamation of urban highways back into community. Particularly, John showed vivid examples of the destruction of elevated/grade seperated highway/roadway systems and how traffic and roads were being integrated into the community instead of destroying it.

Its hard to know where or how these scenarios would play out in a small town environment, aka Port Moody, where there are only two streets which serve as a commuter corridor, as opposed to Mr. Norquist's comments about how traffic 'finds another way'.. sadly, we don't have another way in the local setting, although, there are of course options in the regional context !

Next up, Hon. Ben Stewart, Minister of Community and Rural Development. This is essentially the provincial government ministry that deals with municipal/provincial issues and relations. Mr. Stewart is relatively new to this portfolio and discussed his recent travels around the province and his meetings with representatives from various communities around BC.

The minister stated that affordable housing is a top priority of his government, citing a statistic that 64% of pre-tax income, on average in BC, is going to mortgage / housing costs. He discussed the added affordability of housing on transit corridors , alleviating the expense and need for a vehicle or second vehicle. He acknowledged a number of recent achievements by cities throughout BC - Prince George being a top ten community for investment, Prince Rupert container port 'resetting' the vision of the community, Penticton's success in agriculture tourism.

When questioned from the floor regarding infrastructure deficits, affordable housing funding and other finance related issues, Mr. Stewart emphasized that the province has seen significant drops in revenue since 2008, that there is only one taxpayer, and the provincial government doesnt have a bottomless pit of money to meet all of the requests throughout the province. I think everyone appreciates this, although at the muncipal level, we have the same pressures and fewer tools at our disposal.

Next up, an update on the liquor control and licensing act changes. There has been some rumours and speculation circulating regarding the changes / proposed changes to the act, and representatives were on hand to explain the legislative changes and their impact.
Most importantly, it was repeatedly emphasized that the changes regarding muncipal involvement in liquor licensing, are enabling legislation - meaning, it ALLOWS something to happen but doesnt require it. Several changes are made, in regards to public safety, streamlining and good governance. Being considered are different processes for different types of liquor establishments, with one specific example given being a golf course wanting to add golf cart service, having to go through the same process as a 500 seat night club. Several of the examples given made good sense to revisit. The branch will continue to meet with the UBCM working group.

Ubcm pre conference sessions Monday Sep 27

Monday at the ubcm is a pre conference day, the official start of the conference isn't until Wednesday.. But, pre conference sessions are a good opportunity to have some more in depth discussions with representatives from around the province, on their challenges and successes.

Of course, the emphasis everywhere is on green and sustainability, so I chose to attend two sessions - a green cities session and a sustainability session.

The sustainability workshop was quite broad ranging, with discussions starting around brownfields, and industrial land conversion/ remediation. Various perspectives were discussed, from port alberni, Victoria, Vancouver, and many more. The discussions tended to move to taxation issues as well as the cost of enironmental remediation and liability. Transferance of liability for brown fields was a hot topic, and the ability for buyers of lands to assume or not liability for past activities.

There was also significant discussion with provincial staff about species at risk. Species at risk definition varies in different parts of the province, and in this conversation it really drives home the rural / urban differences. Many rural communities spend considerably more time and resources on wildlife issues than we do in the urban cores, although the same issues exist of different scale for all of us.

The question / answer session and subsequent discussion was very valuable again to share the experiences of different cities and regionss.

The afternoon session was the green cities workshop, centered around the work of the Green Communites Committee and the climate action accord. Prince George, Delta and Saltspring Island presented on their initiatives and projects, and their successes and challenges rolling out their GHG reduction plans in their communities. Again, there was a great exchange of ideas and mutual learning. The province discussed carbon offset credits and the Pacific Carbon Trust, a company created by the province which will pre-qualify offset credits for government that adheer's to the criteria established. The green communities committee talked about the framework for Smart Tool web pilot for calculating GHG reduction and credits.

Most disappointing at this workshop was that discussion was around Reporting, Offsets and Measuring GHG's, but nothing around REDUCTION - the offset discussions can become very circular , for example, Port Moody, having curbside organic collection could report this as a reduction but in the framework could in theory also sell offsets to others as this would be a 'qualified' offset. A little weird and confusing, but the GHG offset discussion in general tends to get that way sometimes !

Good conversation and networking at both of these workshops, all in all , a pretty good day !

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What to do with our waste ?

This morning Metro Vancouver hosted a council-of-councils meeting, for all councillors and mayors of the Metro Region, in Langley. The topic of discussion: Draft Solid Waste Management Plan.

The solid waste issue is getting plenty of media attention these days, and Metro Vancouver waste management committee, staff and board are updating the solid waste management plan, setting the direction for the next 30-50 years in the region.

The draft plan has some good ideas, but there is no question the emphasis in the plan is Waste to Energy/Incineration. (MV is insisting that waste to energy is not just incineration, but all of their graphs, financials and other figures are based on incineration as the WTE technology).

Sadly, while 'lip service' is given to waste reduction and increased (pre WTE) recovery, the ideas in the plan in those regards are vague and for the most part , undefined. Unlike the plans for WTE which include estimated costs for incinerator construction, air emissions 'guesstimates', figures for electrical and heat generation and long term financing models. No other part of the plan, it is clear, has received the same level of detailed consideration, and there are many vague statements like 'work with senior government' on packaging and waste reduction.

I'll follow up on this post after tuesday's meeting in Port Moody where Metro Vancouver is bringing the 'travelling roadshow' (no disprespect intended) to city hall. Greg Moore, chair of the waste management committee, Joe Trasolini, chair of energy and environment committee, and MV Board chair Lois Jackson are taking the MV show on the road, moving throughout the region for public meetings over the next couple of months. Kudos for the board chair in particular for attending these sessions, and for the elected officials for being there - quite often, much to the dismay of attendees, elected officials send staff out to these meetings .. nice to see the decision makers there hearing the feedback first hand.

Stay tuned, more to follow later next week..

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The loss of a community champion.

It is with a heavy heart today that we mourn the loss , and celebrate the life of Tomie Curties.

Tomie always brought a smile to my face, and embodied the spirit of community, volunteering countless hours at various events and neither asking for, nor expecting, anything in return - other than the joy of participating with her friends and neighbours to make our world a better place.

Tomie was one of those individuals who was happy to 'work in the background' to get things done, and always had a positive outlook and words of encouragement when life wasn't going quite as we might hope - truly possessing the ability to 'make lemonade' .

As our lives seem to grow increasingly hectic, and full of technologies, tweets, blogs, and other 'distractions', Tomie was a reminder to me that people, and social interaction, are the most important and gratifying aspects of life. The time we spend with our friends, family, neighbours and community is what makes it all worthwhile.

God bless you Tomie, and thank you for sharing your wisdom and compassion with me - and enjoy the next phase of your journey, wherever that may take you.